Apologies for the extended delay between posts here – As you can tell, JK and I made up for the fact that his father was unable to join us for the epic trip to Scotland, and naturally we had to blog about that too. (See “Sand Rocks“)

On to Fife/St.Andrews!

Summary: In this section, I’ll discuss the particulars of our visit to the New Course, the Old Course, the Eden Course, the Jubilee Course, and Kingsbarns.  Various and sundry other locations in and around Scotland will be noted and discussed accordingly.

After our whirlwind time in East Lothian with our new friends, and in particular crossing the behemoth of Muirfield off our respective bucket lists, JK and I hopped in our tiny rental car (he drove) and we made our way to Fife as quickly as possible.  One quick tip here, it is helpful to have someone in your party that can drive stick, and then drive stick completely backwards.  There is no shot we’d have made it to Fife if I were the one that were driving.  Fortunately, we were able to navigate our way to our lodging at Agnes Blackadder Hall, and then over to the St. Andrews Golf Club.  We met with our host there who took us over to the New Course.

The New Course

As with most of the humor in Scotland, the name of this course in somewhat tongue in cheek.  The New Course was built in 1895.


In a word, I’d describe the New Course as comfortable.  Without a doubt, it truly is a links course.  The New is tucked between the Old and Jubilee Courses.  Indeed, many of the front nine holes play adjacent to the Old Course, and it is even possible to play some of the New Course holes from Old Course fairways if you hit wayward tee shots.  However, the lack of major championship history for this course or indeed, much general knowledge about any significant professional or other championship golf reduced the insane urge that we felt to perform well in storied theaters.  JK and I stepped up to the first tee here with our host and were able to just play.  We hoofed our bags, chatted with our host about golf, Scotland, the U.S., politics, food, etc., and managed to get a perfect introduction to the history and culture around golf in St. Andrews.


The New Course essentially acts as the locals’ home course.  Naturally, when tee times are available on the Old, they will take them as we would, but when the opportunity arises to shove off work early or get in a late afternoon round, the New Course is the first option.  As you might imagine, the course gets less play than the Old, so rounds take less time.  One would think that conditions might be better with less play, but it would be doing a disservice to the Old Course to make that assertion.  Links turf is remarkably different to any turf that is commonly available in the U.S., and is very hearty.  The greens tend to run a bit slower, of course, but no less true.

The New Course also has incredible views of the surrounding area, and of its two neighboring courses.


View from 9th tee, I believe?

Upon ranking the St. Andrews Courses and trying to decide where we would advise our readers to play during their own trips, we agreed that the New was certainly one that folks should incorporate into their rotation if they are in St. Andrews for multiple rounds.

That Night

The date is August 4, 2016.  The time is 4:15 AM.  Two lunatics arrive at the starters tent at the Old Course upon the advice of their host earlier that evening to queue up before the break of dawn to the following scene:


Believe it or not, at 4:15 AM, JK and I are respectively 11th and 12th in line for the standby list to play the Old Course.  So we sit there for what feels like 2 days in the cold waiting for the shack to open.  We try to catch some zzz’s… Some more creatively than others:


But eventually we are told that we should come back at 2pm and that we should have a tee time shortly thereafter.

Dutifully, we arrive at 1:30 and are told that we are to report to the first the tee at 3:50pm.  Ecstatic, sleep deprived, and hungry, we trudge over to the Dunvegan pub.  More on this amazing place later.

The Old Course


The words that come to mind when I think about the Old Course: Timeless, Unique, and Epic.

What can I say about the Old Course at St. Andrews…. Well, I sat for about two hours pondering this exact question, and it turns out that I could say quite a bit.  However, what I’d say you could read in any number of likely much better written reviews than this one.  JK’s initial post about our trip sums up my particular experience with the Old Course, which was memorable to say the least.  (Not so humble brag… I shot 74, my career low to date).

I’ll limit my observations on the Old Course to the following two:

  1. If there were only 1 course I could play for the rest of my life, it would be the Old Course at St. Andrews.  If this were the case, I’d still play golf every single day, and twice on Saturday because it’s closed on Sunday.
  2. If you get a chance to play, on your way back in, be sure you pay attention to the town of St. Andrews on the horizon periodically.  It’s truly awe-inspiring to see this tiny little town grow and grow until it surrounds you as you walk back toward the R&A clubhouse.  This is one of the coolest unintended effects of the Old Course that I feel is an underrated part of the experience.  A very small piece of this is captured in the images below.


The Dunvegan Pub (again)

Yeah, we got hammered after that round.  And drank more Kummel.

The end.

The Eden Course

The one memorable thing about this course was that we almost played the wrong hole at one point.  Had we not run into the only other person playing this course, we likely might have only played 11 holes and wondered where the rest of them where.


I shot 78, JK did not.  Our thoughts as we were waiting for the shuttle back to the Old Course clubhouse after the round: “why did we just play that course?”  Guess you can’t win them all.

The Jubilee Course

The Jubilee course, like Spyglass Hill, is a wonderful example of a course that would be more well-known if were located more than 10 yards from one of the most famous courses in the world.  This course was truly fun.  The course felt a bit shorter than the other links courses that we played, but much tighter and more fraught with danger.  Nearly ever hole includes some incredibly menacing rough or bunker that a careful player must avoid or contend with.  I honestly can’t remember a single shot that allowed the player to lay back or make a small mistake.  That being said, I also don’t remember hitting a single long iron, so really, there shouldn’t be many mistakes…


The Old Jigger Inn

JK ate Haggis.  Gross.


And finally, one of the true jewels of this trip – Kingsbarns.  This Kyle Phillips masterpiece was truly one of the finest courses I’ve had the chance to play.


Panoramic view of 18 from the clubhouse at sunrise

To get a few non-golf things out of the way: 1) the non-golf experience at Kingsbarns is far more typical of the experience at a high-end U.S. resort than the other Scottish links.  That is to say, there are at least two sets of tees that almost no one should be allowed to play for the sake of enjoying the game, the food and drink are actually quite good, and your wallet is going to be a good bit lighter when you leave.  This is due in part to the fact that the owner of Kingsbarns is actually an American that lives in Pleasanton, CA.  2) The clubhouse was one of the best I’ve seen anywhere, ever. 3) They have their own whisky.  It’s really good.

Regarding the golf: awe-inspiring is the phrase that comes to mind for me.  Nearly every hole has an epic view of the North Sea.  The whole course was built upon a fairly flat spit of land, and apparently required over 200,000 cubic meters of dirt to be moved for its construction.  This allowed Kyle to create some truly stunning golf holes that likely wouldn’t be easy to form naturally.  It is one of the few courses we played that had any kind of a forced carry, but even those felt quite manageable.

One hole that stood out to JK and me as not really fitting with the rest was the par three 15th.  This hole required a forced carry over part of the North Sea to a tucked green.  While it was a great hole in its own right, it didn’t feel like it fit with the typical style of the area.


View from the 15th tee at Kingsbarns

JK also took issue with driveable par four 6th hole.  I’m not sure why, honestly.  I loved it.


View from the 6th tee at Kingsbarns.  (Hole is above the two bunkers on right side)

In my opinion, Kingsbarns could be one of the best ever.  It looked as epic as Pebble Beach on every tee shot, played like a true links, and had incredible shot value.  While some shots didn’t fit the true links style, the result is still a course I feel could be imminently playable any time of the year, and could certainly host an Open Championship any time.  The one piece of advice JK and I agreed on for this course that we wish we had followed was to take a caddy.  Oh, also, I hope you’ll agree, Kingsbarns was far and away the most photogenic course we played.


Odds and Ends (Rapid Fire Edition)

  • If you get a chance/invite – visit either the St. Andrews Golf Club or the New Club.  Great insight into the difference between the attitude toward golf in the U.S. and Scotland
  • Agnes Blackadder Hall is the best kept secret for lodging in St. Andrews.  Your own room, good shower, and breakfast for £40 a night.  We booked using Hotels.com.
  • If you’re going to wait in line at the Old course, get there at 4am or earlier.  Bring warm clothing and sleeping bag.
  • Amazing pro tip: there are LOCKERS at New Course Club House that you can use for free (£1 refundable deposit) that hold a full size golf bag.  Store your crap here between rounds, or while you’re waiting in line to play the Old Course.  Be careful about leaving things overnight though – not sure of the policy here.
  • If you’re a stickler for having “official” gear, be careful of shopping anywhere else besides the St. Andrew’s branded pro shops at the clubhouses.  There are lots of duplicates and unofficial suppliers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make good stuff.
  • Belhaven’s Best Beer.  Locals call it Bell’s Best.  Drink it.
  • If we were going to do it again, we’d eliminate the Eden, and wait in line to play the Old again.  If you want other recommendations in the area, we heard great things about Crail and the Castle Course.
  • Finally, if you’re lucky, you might get a view like this one before you leave:


Thank you for reading!

POTW: Flushing It

April 27, 2017

I’m not exactly sure how to write this kind of post, but it’s a good problem to have. This week’s (year’s?) POTW goes to me. Why would someone give himself an honor? Because I’m the king, and on Monday of this week, I earned my own throne.

On Monday I played in a 4-man scramble benefiting a local elementary school. Like most scrambles, the tournament featured close-to-the-pin contests and a long-drive competition.

However, the long-drive competition was unlike any I’d ever entered before. Not to brag, but I’ve won more than my fair share of long drive prizes, including one combo long + straight drive. But I had never won–or even entered–a challenge like the one presented on Monday. A donation to the school from a contractor prompted a special type of long drive competition, likely chosen by the donor. The challenge? See how far you can hit a ball–and here’s the important part–while sitting on a throne, and you win….

a throne.

A porcelain throne.

In other words… a toilet.

Yes, you read that right.

With installation.

In a scramble golf event, my long drive won me a toilet. On the par 4 tenth hole at Shadowridge Golf Club in Vista, California, I hit–from a partial squat position with my posterior resting on a plastic toilet seat–a *flushed* (see what I did there) driver of almost 250 yards up the middle of the fairway. As I took the long drive card from its prior position and moved it to my ball, I only wished that someone had gotten it on video, because if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t have believed it.

And now, I’m curious from our readership–what weird stuff have you won at a golf tournament? Feel free to comment below. I bet it’s not as crappy as my prize =).

Sand Rocks

February 9, 2017

As you grow older, influences of people and events on your life–and the meanings associated therewith–grow with you. Something that you experience one day may have a completely different meaning when you’ve grown 10, 15, 25, 50 years older. Perspective gives you patience and understanding of the deeper significance of events in your life…at least for me.

With that context in mind, I’ll give you some background on the story I’m about to tell.

Like so many, I was introduced to the game of golf by my father, who in turn was introduced to the game by his dad (my grandfather). My father was one of 7 kids in his family (6 boys); golf became one thing that kept them together. My grandfather was not an easy person to get along with, so the game was a chance for some in my dad’s family to spend the kind of time with their dad that they wanted to remember. Even in my own experience, some of the fond memories I had of my grandfather before his death were either playing or talking about golf. Growing up, my fondness for the game was built as much out of nostalgia as it was my own interest in the game itself. Playing the local muni with my dad was something we could bond over; having my uncle (dad’s brother) take me to The Masters remains one of the greatest golf experiences of my life, some 20 years later.

Dad never had much growing up (probably on account of being one of seven children, amongst other things). As my dad told me many a time, the only thing my grandfather ever bought for my father was a set of MacGregor Jack Nicklaus Signature blades as a high school graduation gift (which he still has in his basement somewhere). Visiting a special golf course was very much an exception rather than a norm for us during my childhood. In listing some of the “great” courses we’ve played, the top of my dad’s list included East Lake (which we got on after I joined a law firm that had a membership there for a short period of time), followed by Glen Abbey (which he got me on as part of a fundraiser while working in Canada), and then… NCR in Kettering, OH, which hosted the 1969 PGA Championship. Despite nearly 50 years golfing, my father had known little more than muni tracks across the US. He always played them like they were the best he could have had, and he had a real knack for finding the best day of the month to play on. One of my best memories was–most years, at least–finding a day somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Day to go out and play a round (I grew up in Georgia, and the weather oscillates a lot at this time of year). He earned the nickname “fair weather Fred” over the years for his uncanny ability to pick the best day there was.

In truly divergent fashion, readers on this blog will know that LG leaves no stone unturned when searching for a great golf experience. It’s been mostly tagging along with him that I’ve had opportunities to play Spyglass and Spanish Bay (our first golf trip together), Shadow Creek, Wolf Creek, St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Carnoustie, Olympic Club, the California Golf Club of San Francisco, and so many more that I simply couldn’t list them all. I’ve also had opportunities to play Peachtree Golf Club, Torrey Pines, Piedmont Driving Club, Reynolds Plantation, and several other truly great courses through some very fortunate circumstances.

My dad is also one of the types of people for which there’s always “someday.” If I had a nickle for every time my dad said “someday we’ll do ________” or “someday, when we get a little money, I think it would be neat to ________” then I’d probably not be willing to spend my time examining the finer points of what golf means to me for a blog.

Devoted readers of this blog will also know that LG and I went to Scotland on a Trip-Of-A-Lifetime type of golf getaway in August of 2016. Nevermind LG’s exceptional play that made it even more memorable, the trip featured visits to some of golf’s greatest and most historic courses. At 66 years old, my dad declined the chance to go, I’m sure for one of the many reasons that only a father can know. LG and I had an incredible experience.

In my conversations with my dad afterwards, he sounded disappointed.

For himself.

And I was too. He should have been there, if we’re being honest about it.

Life and time have brought me good fortune and some wisdom (I hope, at least). It was shortly after that time that I decided dad needed his own mini-experience to make up for missing Scotland. I plotted out with LG when we could make our way to San Francisco to visit him and play some courses in the area, including LG’s home track. It was a rather small idea that grew into a rather big one.

LG: “let’s pick some dates in January.”
JK: “sounds good. How about the weekend of 1/15-16? We’re going to go to Las Vegas first but then head up your way”
LG: “that works. Oh, wait, my course is closed on Monday. Could you switch your trip?”
JK: “can’t. Could we play somewhere else on Monday?”
LG: “no, most of the courses here are closed on Mondays.”

LG: “Wait….how about Pebble?”
JK: “Pebble Beach?”
LG: “Is there another course named Pebble around here?”

While it had certainly occurred to me on many occasions to take my father–the man who introduced me to the game–to a place like Pebble Beach, I have to admit that I never actually planned to do it. Frankly, planning a trip is hard; it requires coordinating people’s schedules and figuring out dates and commitments. In some ways, I certainly fall into my father’s “some day” mentality.

But that wasn’t happening today. LG signed us up for a tee time on January 16, 2017. When Christmas came, I told my dad we were going to go play some golf with LG in San Francisco.

Only I didn’t tell him everything. Here’s roughly how the conversation went down:

JK: “So we’ll get there on Sunday, January 15, and play LG’s course. Then, I think his course is closed on Monday so we’re going somewhere else.”
dad: “Do you know what it’s called?”
JK: “eh, you’ll have to ask LG that.”

Over the course of the next few days, I mentioned to LG that we were going to make this a surprise (as much as a round of golf can be). Then, the light bulb went on, and I said “if he asks you where we’re going, just tell him Sand Rocks.”

“Sand Rocks” was, of course, a pseudonym for Pebble Beach, what with pebbles being a subset of rocks and beaches being made from sand. LG chuckled, “you really think he isn’t going to figure that one out?”

As the time grew closer, it turned out that San Francisco–and most of the northern California area–experienced some ridiculous storms (http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/weekend-storm-to-unload-widespread-heavy-rain-in-western-us/70000459). Many trees at LG’s course were felled during the rain and after. LG’s course was in unusually damp condition, with branches downed all over. With the bad weather, it easily could have rained out our plans for the following day. But what were we going to do? The trip had been scheduled. We packed up and prayed for good days.

The trip happened. I showed my dad around Las Vegas, a place he hadn’t really experienced in detail prior. Then we got on our flight to SFO. Now, at this point, he knew:
(1) we were not playing LG’s course on Monday
(2) we were getting up at 5:00 am to go play a course at an 8:10 tee time
(3) we were planning to fly out of San Jose that night, not SFO.
(4) the course was called “Sand Rocks”

We landed in SFO and took the legally-mandated Uber ride to LG’s course. Then we teed off and walked around the track. Dad quit after nine holes from being tired (and, of course, the bar at LG’s course didn’t hurt either). We had a quick dinner in the city then got to bed. Then we got up at 5:00 and started.

FK at LG's Course

Many thanks to LG for driving us all the way down. SF is not close to Carmel, and the drive certainly wasn’t easy at 5:00. At one point, it was 37 degrees F outside. It was still dark. But as we approached the course, things started to warm up.

LG began asking my dad what his favorite golf experiences were; he asked what the best courses played were; he asked if my dad had ever been out to Pebble Beach before. My dad answered all his questions honestly and earnestly…

…and he had no clue where we were going.

We passed road sign after road sign saying “PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS, NEXT RIGHT”–still nothing. We stopped at the guard gate at 17-Mile Drive, the well-known entrance to Pebble Beach Golf Links, and said “we’re playing the course today.” Still nothing. As we drove in, my dad told his story of walking out on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach–“it’s a really neat place,” he said. “You see all these houses and you go, ‘My God, how fortunate do you have to be to live in a place like this.'” He also threw in a gold nugget: “ya know, it would be wonderful to play it some day, but not at the price they’re charging for it. It’s too expensive.”

Sand Rocks Signs

did you read the signs?

LG pulled the car into a parking space in front of the course. We took all the bags out and set them behind the car, gathering our items for the round. It was there, standing at the precipice of one of the most historic courses in the world, that I decided to let him in on the secret.

JK: “dad, did you put in your contacts today?”
dad: “I only put one in, my eye hurts a bit”
LG: “you need to get your stuff out of your travel bag, right?”
JK: “well, yeah, I guess…….

Hey dad, did you read the sign?”

After about 15 seconds of reading and pondering what had been right in front of him all along, my dad turned around with a puzzled look on his face.

“I thought you said we were playing this other place?”

and then it hit him. He broke into a full grin. He chuckled at himself, trying to figure out what he should say. He fumbled over his words, not realizing if we were serious or just playing a joke of some sort.


“I told you this place is too expensive,” he managed to get out with a huge grin.

He finally knew where we were, what we were doing. 50 years of golfing, he finally got to be a part of it, not just to watch it on a screen or walk from the sidelines–he got a chance to do it. At one point during the round he remarked “I wouldn’t have chosen to come here with the way I’m playing now.” I couldn’t help but wonder if, when, and how he would ever be better than he was that day. And that’s when I understood–somewhere along the way, I learned that the game isn’t about the way you play it, it’s about the experience you get from it. It’s about getting things out of it that you never knew were there. It’s about finding things within you that you needed to know about yourself to fully understand who you are.


Our caddie mentioned that we had picked the perfect day to play. It seemed only fitting. “It rained all last week,” he said, “and it’s supposed to get overcast and cold tomorrow.” We walked the course at 65 degrees F in full sunshine. Fair-weather Fred did his part.


Highlight of the Day: dad hits a 40-foot putt to save par on the second

In a moment I’ll personally never forget, dad and I both hit the green on the 17th. It was probably the only one all day.


We took picture after picture, then finished our round, had a putting competition on the practice green (which LG won, of course), had a drink at the bar, then sat out by the 18th green for awhile just contemplating what had just happened. In a lifetime on the golf course, I don’t think I’d ever seen my dad seem so much in-the-moment as I did that day. We both played pretty good rounds of golf, all things considered. 20170116_092112






And dad managed to narrowly avoid plummeting to his death in Stillwater Cove.




Then we went home.

Pride, hope, achievement, reflection.

As ephemeral as those feelings can be, they are the reason we do this. Even when it’s expensive, even when it’s not perfect, even when we know we could play better, there really isn’t much that compares to experiencing the pinnacle of a lifetime’s devotion. My dad never asked for much and never needed to have that experience. He could have gone his whole life never setting foot on the hallowed ground of the game–at least, not as a player–and probably would have never noticed a thing. But having been one to have that experience gives him something he will never let go of for the rest of his life. And, frankly, the same went for me. Just watching him live out something he could have only dreamt of a few years earlier showed me just how far we had come. And, starting tomorrow, he’ll be able to watch the best in the world take on the course he now knows just a small part about. Even if he could have done without it, it is priceless in its own right.

That…is why we love this game.





Scotland 2016

August 23, 2016

I started and re-started writing this post probably 6 times in total. When I finally did sit down and get moving on it, it took me 5 days of writing just to get a full draft down. Despite the abundance of words (over 7,800 at the time I am drafting this prologue), this is my best effort. LG and I had a hard time figuring out how to distill our desired information into a post that adequately captured our experiences without becoming too much of a course review or inundating the readers with information. Hopefully you won’t find these posts to be too long or cumbersome to read. However, this blog is not just a place for our readers to enjoy and share in our experiences and information; it is also a place where we record some of our experiences for our own memories, hoping to one day share with our families and friends long after the experience is over. I’m hopeful we have accomplished that goal in this post.

Without further ado, here is our first post on Scotland.

The 2016 annual LG-and-JK-play-terrible-golf-somewhere-other-than-their-home-courses meetup took us to Scotland. This was my first trip to the home of golf, and, although LG had ventured there once, he had not played any golf. It was not without a bit of drama, a bit of intrigue, and a lot fatigue, but it was certainly a life experience to add to the books.

Thinking about what it takes to get two guys across the Atlantic Ocean for a week, it’s no surprise that, after 20 years of playing golf, this is only the second time I’ve brought my clubs outside the US–and the first time outside of North America. The cost and planning involved are not to be underestimated (much thanks to LG on the planning end). With that said, even after playing hundreds of golf courses in dozens of US States and literally thousands of rounds of golf…Scotland was still very different and very much worth all the effort and cost.

LG: Many folks will compare Bandon Dunes on the Oregon Coast to the golf offerings in Scotland.  After this trip, I think it’s fair to say that, in terms of the golf offered at Bandon, it’s about as close as you can get to Scotland in the US, but in terms of the experience, it’s entirely different.  This post isn’t meant to be a fulsome discussion of that subject, but will certainly be the subject of a later post.  Ru MacDonald and Graylyn Loomis recently released an episode of the Scottish Golf Travel Podcast that discusses this very subject.  We would also be remiss in not thanking Ru and Graylyn for their podcast and answers to our emails during the planning of our own trip.  Thanks, guys!

The trip, which was scheduled in late 2015, consisted of 7 days of golf and travel from July 30th, 2016 (takeoff from LAX to GLA) to August 7, 2016 (landing in LAX from GLA) (LG’s schedule was slightly different and included flying out of SFO and returning to a business location). LG networked extensively to find us desired locations of play and connections for hosting at some of the most storied courses in the game. What resulted was a dream listing of courses:

Leave LAX July 30 PM, Arrive GLA July 31 PM*
July 31 – Royal Troon*
August 1 – Glasgow Golf Club – Gailes Links*
August 2 – North Berwick AM / Gullane #1 PM
August 3 – Muirfield AM / St. Andrews – New Course PM
August 4 – The Old Course at St. Andrews
August 5 – St. Andrews – Eden Course AM / St. Andrews – Jubilee Course PM
August 6 – Kingsbarns AM / Carnoustie PM
Leave GLA August 7 AM, Arrive LAX August 7 PM*

(*LG not included)

That’s 11 courses in 7 days, including four Open rota courses, four rounds at The Home of Golf, and four different cities/towns in which we played. If that sounds like a lot of golf….it was. It’s 198 holes over 7 days. To his credit, LG stayed sharp and on his game pretty much the whole time, despite having run a half-marathon literally the day before arriving. My game was a bit more mercurial, but that’s not unexpected.

What prompted the trip?
Well, one might say that it was something that we had always wanted to do, but I think we all know that those types of vague “one day” goals never really get put on a calendar. Instead, it really was a product of circumstance, in my case. In late 2015, I came across a great deal on flights to Europe through British Airways. In an incredible lapse of judgment, I booked a flight to Scotland (the above) without even talking to my wife. The deal worked out to being an $800 round-trip business class seat. Now, whether my wife was planning my untimely demise at one point or not, we’ll never know for sure. However, we both realized that it was possible to make it actually work. LG committed to the trip and the rest is history.

The Trip:
In 7 days of life in Scotland, we did almost nothing but golf. And while LG and I could review the courses for ages (and will in adjacent posts that will eventually be hyperlinked herein), the purpose of this general post is to talk more about the trip. I’ll do my best to be chronological, but we might get out of order here in some of the information. Please don’t hold it against me if I’m not terribly organized–there was a lot of beer.

July 31, 2016
My plane connected through London. The first thing I would tell anyone who is traveling through London is this: do not…DO NOT…book a tight connection through London. I got off my plane with about an hour connection time and thought “let me make sure I know where I’m going.” I figured out where the appropriate connection locations were and set off…eventually finding a line that looked like this (note, this is not my picture, but it might as well have been):

oh shit

What’s infuriating about these customs lines in Europe is the fact that there is a very small line for UK citizens with two agents working it and a very large line for everyone else with one agent working it. All this just to ask me where I was going and who I was going with seemed a bit ridiculous.

Oh, and, of course, you have to go through a London security line, even though you haven’t left the airport. Bizarre. Anyway, I didn’t have much time after the customs line, so I jumped through security and literally threw my backpack into the scanner. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the UK is apparently still on the old system that US had where ALL LIQUIDS MUST COME OUT OF YOUR BAG.

HOT TIP: If you’re connecting through London, (a) don’t have a tight connection, and (b) get all liquids out of your bag and put them in a small plastic bag like the good ole days

So I was selected for additional screening. With 12 minutes to go until boarding. Great. I got to wait behind an older American man who was straight up chewing out the security steward. She got so frustrated that she decided to start tooting her own horn: “safest airport in the world, sir” was followed by “we didn’t have to do this before 9/11…who was responsible for that” in a tone intimating that the US was somehow responsible for a terrorist attack on its own soil. As frustrated as I was with that, I decided not to push it since I was at 4 minutes and counting. When she finally got to my bag, I was already past initial boarding by 10 minutes and thinking my chances were probably over. So I just let her do her search, find nothing, and calmly carried my bag. I figured I would walk toward my own gate and, if there were any agents there, figure out how to get on the next flight out. As I walked down the stairs, I heard “last call for boarding British Airways flight 7492 with service to Glasgow Airport.”

It was at this point that I realized exactly how unathletically I can break into a full sprint. Regardless of my apparent exhaustion and soreness, I managed to make it to the gate in the nick of time and…shockingly…have an entire row all to myself despite an otherwise completely full plane.

Rejoicing at my good fortune, the flight touched down in Glasgow a full 45 minutes prior to my scheduled landing time. I proceeded to my baggage carousel…and found one bag. It was at this time that I learned that British Airways leaves golf bags in London about as frequently as Donald Trump embarrasses America.

HOT TIP: British Airways leaves golf bags in London ALL THE TIME

After speaking with the baggage claim personnel, I was told that the bag would arrive on the next flight from London in a little over an hour, so all was not last. And, one huge silver lining to this process was that the rental car line took about as long as the next flight took to arrive, so I likely would have been stuck at the airport anyway.

LG: My own experience was apparently not as awful as JK’s.  I was fortunate enough to fly in an Airbus A380-800 on the top deck in an exit row seat (EXTRA LEG ROOM! but no window…) which was easily the most comfortable flight I’ve ever taken.  I connected through London as well, and had to wait in the same ridiculous security line.  I later found out that I had been directed to the wrong line and ended up having to sprint out of the airport, back in, and through domestic security.  I pulled the straight up American move of jumping to the front of the line and managed to get to my gate 10 minutes before my flight to Edinburgh began boarding.  I also flew British, but somehow they didn’t lose my bag.  Chalk it up to the A380?

Following all of this, I immediately took to the rental car and drove to Royal Troon, site of this year’s Open Championship (won by Henrik Stenson just a few weeks prior). We will eventually post a review link somewhere below, but here are a few teaser photos:
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August 1, 2016
I stayed the night near Troon and played the following morning at The Glasgow Golf Club – Gailes Links course. While the course might not necessarily be on anyone’s immediate list of “go-to” courses in Scotland, the experience there was one of the more profound I had. My host – a kind member who put up with my suffering game – discussed the happenings of the club as if he had immediate knowledge of them, telling the history in an almost first-person account.
“Well, some members were becoming fed up with the course in the city, and, with the opening of the railroads, we had some access to this area, which is more remote. So the Gailes course was opened,” the member said.
“That’s interesting. How old is the club?” I asked.
“Well, the Glasgow Golf Club is the ninth oldest golf club in the world.”
As we walked to the first tee, I briefly looked at the scorecard, on which the following is written:

Glasgow Golf Club was founded in 1787 and is the ninth oldest club in the World. We are a members’ club, and we believe we’re uniqe, as we have two top quality courses 35 miles apart, Killermont in Glasgow, and Gailes Links near Troon on the Ayrshire coast.

The links course at Gailes was acquired in 1892, and in 1912 re-designed by former Open Champion Willie Park Jnr of Musselburgh. Willie always believed Gailes to be one of his best creations.”

So when he spoke of “some members,” my host was speaking of people with whom he had had no personal interaction in any way. But it hadn’t been done in an offensive way. Instead, it was more of an assignment of how important the golf history was to them that they would recount it so vividly as if it were first person. Although Americans would never have told a story like this, his demeanor foretold of the respect and admiration this game garners in the area. Throughout our journey, people who self-identified as having no interest in playing the game (that we had traveled thousands of miles to enjoy) still expressed interest to the point of asking probing questions about our trip, which courses we were playing, which towns we were visiting, and more. My experience at Glasgow Gailes was the point where I realized just how different this place was from home.

HOT TIP: “Glasgow Gailes” refers to The Glasgow Golf Club’s “Gailes Links” course. There is a separate club known as “Western Gailes.” These are different places–do not confuse them

I thanked my host profusely for his hospitality then drove to Edinburgh to get LG, followed by another few hours trip to North Berwick (pronounced “North Bear Ehck”) and a check in at The County Hotel. LG and I walked around town for a bit, found a few pubs, and (in true-to-form experience of LG-and-JK-go-golfing) bought a small pack of beers, grabbed some food, and headed to a spot to start our roughly semi-annual catch-up. A few shots from a beach in North Berwick:
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This one was from further down the beach, where the golf course is located. This is actually a view of the second hole:
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It is here that I take a few moments to discuss something of great interest to me personally, but maybe not particularly of interest to everyone here. As an alumnus of Georgia Institute of Technology, I personally take notice when my fellow alums do something noteworthy. I didn’t know it at the time I took this picture, but I learned the next day of something in the picture above that would connect me.

In the distance of the picture on the left is a large home that was once owned–as our host noted to me–by a man named John Imlay. Mr. Imlay was best-known around the world as a part-owner of the Atlanta Falcons, which was why my host had brought him up to me (for the apparent connection with the city of Atlanta). However, as you might have guessed, Mr. Imlay was a fellow almnus of mine (albeit, a number of years before me). I had already known about him and his exploits as a tech tycoon who virtually founded the technology industry in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. I also knew that he was an avid golfer who had fallen in love with Scotland.

What I did not know–that my host informed me–was that Mr. Imlay had fallen ill with a heart attack and died suddenly at age 78 in 2015. He was said by the Scots to be the only man who was allowed to break golf’s 14-club rule…because he was a member of more than 14 golf clubs in Scotland. One lasting legacy that Mr. Imlay left on Scotland was his donation of bridges all over Scotland, including bridges that LG and I used at North Berwick and Carnoustie. He also donated bridges in other places (e.g., the Atlanta Botanical Garden). Should you seek to learn more about Mr. Imlay and his admiration of Scottish golf, you can review the Scottish Golf Podcast, episode 38, of an interview Ru MacDonald took with Mr. Imlay.

Perhaps the most memorable quote: “I believe golf courses are like beautiful women; the best is the one you’re with at the time.”

Now back to our usually-scheduled programming…

August 2, 2016
The County Hotel was my first experience with the “Full Scottish” breakfast.

HOT TIP: The food sucks in Scotland.

Seriously, the best food we ate was some Kebabs in North Berwick, which is food that has nothing to do with Scotland. There seems to be a lack of focused imagination. For example, “maybe we should put a little bit of spice in this sausage” is probably a phrase that has never been uttered in the area. The food is serviceable (although LG and I both declined the black pudding), but simply will not leave you happy to have had a meal.

LG: yeah. The food really sucks in Scotland.

Anyway, the North Berwick Golf Club has two courses, but it’s a bit confusing. The course that is commonly referred to as “North Berwick” is actually “The West Links,” and the second course of the North Berwick Golf Club is “The Glen.” It is never really made apparent anywhere or explained in those terms either, so some of the interactions we had with people were confusing (“where are you playing?” “North Berwick” “Which course?” “…North Berwick” “You must mean the West Course” “I think so…Is that North Berwick?” “Are you playing The Glen?” “No, we’re not playing The Glen” “OK, you’ll be on the West Course” “Is that North Berwick?”).

In very brief terms, I have to say–North Berwick might have been the most enjoyable round of golf of the whole trip. LG and I will provide our own review, but the review at Golf Club Atlas tells most of the story. Classic challenges and unique ones are constantly interspersed, with a good sense of reassurance in your own game, but not too much. The course is, simply, a very enjoyable one. And this was probably during the height of the wind.

LG: NB offers a few golf holes you’ll not find elsewhere.  In particular the Pit hole, Perfection, and the Redan were some of the most memorable of the trip.  More to come on this later.
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The afternoon round saw us at Gullane No. 1. Gullane has three courses (1, 2, and 3), but the No. 1 course is apparently the championship course. The No. 1 course is set on a hillside and plays cleverly up, down, and around it, with challenging golf holes and great vistas. While the course was a special one of its own right, it was not immediately memorable for anything other than the view. Perhaps it is a bit unfair to categorize it in this way, as we had just come off of one of the most unique and enjoyable courses I have personally ever played. It should also be noted that Gullane was in impeccable shape. In fact, in many ways, Gullane overshadowed the storied Muirfield Golf Course. I would recommend anyone visiting the area get on at Gullane, even if it wasn’t the greatest test of golf or the most memorable individual round I’ve ever played. It was still a very enjoyable one.

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One thing that LG and I will ALWAYS remember, however, is being introduced to the germane drink of golfers in the town of Gullane: Kummel (pronounced “koo – mel”)(http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324853704578587402768615418). According to our host, 70% of the world’s consumption of Kummel occurs at three golf clubs within several miles of each other near the town of Gullane. LG and I became fans.

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Another thing LG and I noted during the trip – it seems like certain drinks are remarkably better in Scotland than in the states. For example, neither LG nor I care for Guiness in the US. However, in Scotland, it is far and away the best beer on tap in most of the pubs. Local whiskeys have a remarkably resilient flavor. To put it in the words of one of our hosts, “it simply doesn’t travel well.”

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Despite the long and enjoyable day, LG and I went to sleep excited–the next day, we would embark to Muirfield, one of the most difficult gets in the game of golf.

LG: One of the undertones you may have picked up about this trip thus far is that our hosts were an integral part of the experience.  In Scotland, golf is as much about the people you meet and the conversations you have as it is the courses you play.  We were incredibly lucky in North Berwick and Gullane to be hosted by our friends TG and JTJ.  Between showing us around their towns and introducing us to Kummel, these blokes really made the experience special.  Thanks, gents!


August 3, 2016
Muirfield. What else can you say?

Well, a lot, apparently.

LG: one quick aside to explain the difference between Scottish clubs and American clubs.  In the US, we typically have private, public, and semi-public clubs, with the first only allowing members and their invited guests, the second allowing anyone who pays the green fee, and the third being a sort of hybrid.  Scotland tends to take a more egalitarian view of golf and has very few (if any) purely private clubs.  Even Muirfield, which is notoriously difficult to get a game on, has guest days every week.  Their view is that guest play should subsidize member play and keep costs low.

The typical experience at Muirfield is a full day. Fourball in the morning and foursomes in the afternoon.  The between lunch is supposedly more amazing than the golf.  The members have described themselves as an “eating club attached to a golf course.”

The course is unbelievable. It is without a doubt the pinnacle of Old Tom Morris’s designs. And it was also where I probably played my best during our trip.

I wish I could tell you more. But our 2.5-ish hour round was followed by an immediate exit from the course.

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The day was not lost, though, because we had the New Course on our list as well.

First, simply walking up to St. Andrews was a surreal experience. LG and I don’t often post pictures of ourselves on this blog, but it’s needed in this circumstance because of what it signifies:
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After 23 years of golf, I finally stepped onto that surreal place, the one that has been around for hundreds of years. The feeling was overwhelming–like playing Pebble Beach, seeing The Masters live, or meeting a TOUR pro who you’ve followed for years: as it’s happening, you have a hard time believing it’s real, and, when it’s over, you have a hard time understanding what just happened. Thankfully, LG and I didn’t immediately walk to The Old Course and tee one up, because we probably would have played like absolute crap. However, we did get a chance to try out The New Course. Here are some views:

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The New Course is anything but new, having opened in 1895. As told by our host, “they used to just call it ‘the links at St. Andrews.’ It was never ‘The Old Course.’ But, when they opened the New, they started referring to it as ‘The Old Course’ and ‘The New Course.’ Then someone decided to actually call it that.” Makes sense, I guess.

For all the lore the Old Course gets (and, rightfully so), the New Course is probably as much if not more a true test of pure golf. It proved to be a great precursor to our next day.

LG: We had the pleasure of being conducted around the New Course by a member of the St. Andrew’s Golf Club, which is is one of two historic clubs associated with the St. Andrew’s links.  The other is called the New Club.  Both are located off of the 18th fairway at the Old Course, and both have long, storied histories.  The experience of playing the New Course with a member of one of these clubs who plays it as his home course was marvelous.  We were treated to a discussion of the development of the links, and an insiders view into the maintenance of the 7 courses by the St. Andrew’s Links Trust.  For anyone interested in the politics and history surrounding the development of the Links, there can be no better host.  Also, we highly recommend dinner at the St. Andrews Golf Club, if you are lucky enough to be treated to it.  Likely the best meal we had in Scotland during our time there.

In St. Andrews, LG had the bright idea of staying at Agnes Blackadder Hall, which is a dormitory that is part of the University of St. Andrews. The rooms were under $40/night, but rooms have only one king bed, so we each got our own (which turned out to be great). Agnes Blackadder Hall is about a 7 minute walk from The Links at St. Andrews and was as close and reasonably priced as we could have imagined.

HOT TIP: Check Agnes Blackadder Hall for your stay–you will be pleasantly surprised by how great it is

August 4, 2016

Now, for some of the process of getting on at St. Andrews, LG will describe the balloting system in greater detail in his review. For our trip, our balloting failed and we instead had to go set up a tent at 4:30 in the morning to stake our claim on whatever tee times we could get. So, we did. And we were 10th and 11th. Some crazy Americans had actually waited in line since 8:30 the night before: a full two hours before LG and I had finished eating dinner. Have you ever wondered what the R&A building looks like at 4:15 in the morning? Well, wait no longer:

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Yes, crazy Americans who were waiting to play since 8:30pm the day before…


JK builds a fort to shelter himself from the wind.  Anything for golf! 

Only 8 spots were guaranteed, so LG and I were left waiting. I told him “I have a good feeling about this” when we were told to come back at 3:30 PM. The tee sheet had a twosome open at 3:30, but the other half of the tee sheet was filled by St. Andrews members, who are allowed to decline to play with others if they choose. So, I went back to the Hall and took a nap, then we meandered around the town a bit.

LG and I were all ready to play the Jubilee Course at our scheduled time of 10:08 AM. We showed up at the starter shack of the New Course/Jubilee about 15 minutes prior to our round….and were informed that our tee time had been 7:15 and we had missed it. Oops. However, this probably turned out for the better–who knows what would have happened differently if we had played Jubilee that day. Also–and this is very important–the staff at the St. Andrews golf course does an absolutely unequivocally great job reorganizing tee times. They know that many golfers show up wanting to play The Old Course but with tee times at other courses in case The Old doesn’t work out. As such, they are well versed in rearranging trips.

HOT TIP: The St. Andrews staff is amazing and incredibly helpful. Do not be afraid to ask them for their thoughts on reorganizing your trip.

LG and I rebooked our Jubilee round for the following afternoon. The starter gave us this helpful reminder, written on the Jubilee scorecard…with extra underlining.



After our interesting missed tee time, LG and I continued our tour of St. Andrews. Here are some thoughts that might be helpful if you go.

First, there is a clubhouse at The New Course that has lockers available for a £1 deposit. When I say a deposit, I mean they make you put a £1 coin into the slot to be able to turn the key, but they will return the coin to you when you open the locker. As such, you can effectively rent the locker for day use for no fee. Further, they have lockers that are large enough to put a standard-sized carry bag in. And–we asked, but never got the chance to use–it’s possible to rent these lockers overnight for just £2. If LG and I had known about this earlier, we certainly wouldn’t have schlepped our clubs all over St. Andrews–back and forth to AB Hall, to the Dunvegan, etc–and instead would have just left them at The New Course Clubhouse while we tooled around the city.

HOT TIP: The New Course Clubhouse has lockers big enough to fit your golf clubs that can be rented for a refundable £1 deposit during the day and a £2 fee overnight. Use this if you have multiple rounds back-to-back at the courses at St. Andrews so you don’t end up hauling your clubs everywhere.

Another interesting tidbit that we learned has little related to golf but a bit related to money, which is probably way more important. In the interim between our 9:30-ish breakfast at the New Course clubhouse (which was pretty serviceable) and our 3:30 PM potential tee time, LG and I killed time touring St. Andrews. For example, we took the photo below


Obviously some time and brain cells wasted there. And, on the ambit of burning brain cells, we also visited the Dunvegan Inn and Pub, which probably had the best food in St. Andrews and was a tremendous spot to have a few drinks.

However, we also spent a good bit of time (and money) grabbing souvenirs. St. Andrews has 4 or 5 shops that sell memorabilia that is branded for “The Old Course” and “St. Andrews Links,” which are the official trademarks. There are plenty of other shops as well that sell arguably trademark-diluting memorabilia bearing, for example, a picture of a golf club and “St. Andrews Golf” on the front. Nonetheless, some of this memorabilia was pretty neat as well, and LG and I both purchased a cross-section of it.

Well, at one store, LG was informed by a clerk about VAT refunds, which can be a fairly sizable amount of money. For those that don’t know, VAT stands for “Value Added Tax” and constitutes a consumption tax in many European countries, including the UK. The standard VAT rate is…and, I’m not kidding here…20%. That’s right, they literally take 1/5 of whatever you are buying and tack it on as a consumption tax (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value-added_tax_(United_Kingdom) ). Talk about regressive…

Anyway, the clerk at one store told LG that it’s actually possible to have the tax refunded on certain souvenir purchases. All you have to do is, as you’re checking out, ask the clerk for a VAT refund form. The clerk will sign the form and give it to you along with your receipt and an envelope. You simply fill out the form, put it in the envelope, and drop it off at a VAT refund office at the airport (I suppose it’s also possible to mail it in). After that, the form is processed and the 20% is returned to your credit card.

HOT TIP: save 20% on your memorabilia by asking clerks at souvenir shops for VAT refund forms

This process also worked at Carnoustie. All of the clerks were very familiar with the process–all we had to say was “can I please have a VAT refund form,” and within a few seconds they had given out what we needed. A few minutes filling out the forms at the last hotel we stayed at, and…well, I think LG probably spent close to £500 on stuff, so that’s pretty substantial (exchange rate at $1.33/£ and 20% of $500 = $133 saved). Also, in Europe, prices tend to have tax included in the stickered price (unlike the US, where tax is added at the point of sale), so it was basically like getting a 20% discount on whatever we were buying. That makes it a lot more attractive to purchase some of the items, which can seem a bit pricey at times.

Anyway, time passed…. So, we played The Himalayas…

The Himalayas is an 18-hole putting course close to the New Course clubhouse, on the right side of the first hole of The Old Course. It is actually one of two putting courses located on the same property, with the other belonging to the Ladies’ putting club of St. Andrews.  It’s….interesting, but it won’t help your game much. The “green” is nowhere near the speed of the real courses there…more like putting from a fairway. But it was a nice way to kill time.

LG: These putting courses are also a microcosm of what makes Scottish golf so different from US golf.  There were families playing as 7-somes in front of us who also had their dogs along for the walk.  There were children playing through our group and sprinting after errant “tee shots.”  It was glorious and not at all the way a top 100 course in the US would allow play to be conducted.

By now you might have forgotten that the whole point was to play The Old Course. Well, after ALL of this…it was about time.

We went to the starter shack and were told that we would get on. And rejoicing commenced.

It’s at this point that I have to point out how this trip review pivots. Most of the morning and early afternoon was spent fooling around, wasting time, and simply enjoying being tourists. But at the moment when it became fully apparent that we would get to play The Old Course, something changed. We were about to step onto one of the oldest, most important golf courses in the entire world. Not only that, but the moment presented a culmination of a journey–for me, one of 23 years–from the first moment I officially “played” golf to standing at the doorway if its inception. What I think that neither LG or I could have guessed was what would come next.

HOT TIP: Bring a copy of your handicap card if you want to play the Old Course. The starters will ask for it when you check in. This can be a screenshot on a smart phone

Teeing off at The Old Course is an unnerving experience. As a spectator, you might look out and see a huge–and I do mean HUGE–flat field of grass. You might think “how on earth could someone miss that!” You might even declare it out loud. Many spectators do. In fact, as a player walking up to the tee box, you might even hear one of the 75 or so people standing around the area say something of this nature.

But when you play it….it looks like a tiny sliver. You see the burn. You see the fence (that’s on the other side of the 18th fairway). You see terrible result after terrible result just one bad swing away.


When you tee it up, you have to swing with confidence. I know this because I didn’t. I took probably the shortest swing of my entire life. But somehow I pure’d it right down the middle.

is this even real?

is this even real?

I will not attempt to review The Old Course for several reasons–first, if you don’t already know what it’s about, you’re not a golfer. Second, even if I were going to review it, this post is already far too long to do it here. But, most importantly, after all the hype…the course wasn’t even the best thing that happened.

My round was rather abruptly turned into an “oh, well, I guess we’re just walking in a field now” kind of round on the second hole, and the remainder of the day (for me) was simply additional reminders that I needed to work on my swing.

However, it became apparent on about the sixth hole that my friend–the co-author of this blog, LG–was doing something very, very special. Now, backing up, LG is about a 7 handicap; JK is about a 2. Remember all the walking through memorabilia shops? At one of them, St. Andrews offered a framed picture and scorecard holder to commemorate your round. I proposed “let’s make a bet–if I (JK) break 70 or you (LG) break 75, then we can earn one of those from the other.” We agreed.

LG went out in 37

It wasn’t just that he went out in 37, it was that he didn’t hit a bad shot the whole day…well, other than the opening tee shot on the first hole, which landed a few yards short of the OB fence on the 18th. When your good friend plays an other-worldly brand of golf on what may be the most storied course on the planet, it is truly a special thing. For all the readers here who have seen LG’s and my struggle with the game of golf over the years, you know what it means to show up in that moment.

Would he hold it together? What of the inward 9?

Well, I can tell you that LG had this putt for eagle (yes, eagle) on the 12th:IMG_8359.PNG

missed by less than an inch

and I can tell you that he tiptoed the OB line on 16, but didn’t flinch a bit when it stayed in-bounds. And I can tell you that he hit it over the hotel on The Road Hole, which is something that I didn’t manage (although I hit probably the coolest shot of the bunch, don’t you think, LG?).

LG: Without a doubt.  This is actually a view of the ball after it has already reached maximum height:


And, somehow, it doesn’t hit the wall.

Coming up 18, the only thing left was not to screw it up. What happened?

LG looks thrilled to have won his prize.

LG looks thrilled to have won his prize.

In in 37.

For all the stories that could be told about the greatness of the Old Course and what it means to golf, it was truly a special thing to watch someone shoot his career round on that course on that day.

Here’s a few parting shots of what turned out to be a most memorable round:
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And the obligatory celebratory drink:

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Back at the Dunvegan, we sat down with another American named “Michael” and discussed how great of a day we’d just had. Hands down, this is one of the 4 or 5 top experiences in the history of LG/JK golf, if not the very top. Included in this list would be (a) “hit it in the hole, LG…..no, I mean, hit it in the hole” (15th at Wolf Creek, after which LG rolled it past the hole twice–shot in and spin back–and ended up at 2 feet in front of the pin for birdie), (b) “ball in a cup” (12th at TPC Las Vegas – Canyons, where LG and I both made birdie, LG rolling the ball in and singing the ball-in-a-cup song from Family Guy, https://youtu.be/P4tfL_oCUPA?t=33), (c) LG and JK both making birdie at #4 at Pebble Beach, among others. And it’s a story I’ll tell others for years. Yeah, I would have liked to have personally played better. But I also used to think how much I wished I had hit a hole-in-one when I saw three other guys do it. Then I had one, and I realized that the stories I tell about others are as much a part of the story of this great game as my own. I didn’t have to play the round of my life to enjoy it. I got to live it just watching LG do it. That was as awesome as anything I’ve seen in the game in awhile.

Although, I probably wouldn’t have made that bet if I had known he was going to do it…

Off to bed, exhausted. Just one more day at St. Andrews in the morning.

LG: The Old Course. Pretty good.

August 5, 2016
On our final day playing St. Andrews, LG and I embarked on two of the lesser-known courses, Eden and Jubilee.

As I look back at our experience of the Eden Course, it probably wasn’t as bad as LG and I originally thought. A number of holes play along the Eden estuary that are picturesque. However, in both of our opinions, the course lacked character. Now–keep in mind–we had just stepped off of The Old Course the day prior, so it’s a bit like when you go to the bar and there’s the smoke show–all the other girls look terrible by comparison. Alas, I don’t really think that was the case.

The Eden had a few neat holes–including one set of crossing par 3s that each had strange green complexes (including a 20-foot elevation false front that LG played beautifully). But even the holes along the estuary lacked defining features that would make you think of the course again. Many of the holes–even those that were poised for beauty–were simply long and straight or with a small dogleg but no real features. The characteristic dunes and mounds that make up so much of The Old Course, The New Course, and The Jubilee Course are strangely absent from a course that is mere matter of yards away from the others. The back 9 could easily be a set of golf holes taken from a muni course in central Ohio. There is an oddly placed lake around the 14-15th holes–which doesn’t really make sense for a links course.

Honestly, you should probably skip it. If we had known, we probably would’ve played somewhere else.

LG: Pro tip – skip the Eden Course. During the planning of this trip, I rejected the Castle Course from our lineup because a number of folks said it was not worth playing and that it was poorly designed for the conditions it typically plays in.  We drove by on our way to Kingsbarns the following morning, and it seemed pretty nice.  Consider playing this course in the early AM if you need to fill a gap in your rotation to avoid the severe hilltop winds.

The afternoon was the Jubilee Course. For all the hype that is given to the Old Course and The New Course, I personally found the Jubilee Course to be everything the others were, and perhaps even better.

For one thing, the Jubilee Course sits on a piece of land that is between the New Course and the coastline of the North Sea. In this way, the course is much more exposed to the elements than The Old Course (although, how much so might be debatable since they’re not far from each other at all). What the Eden course lacked in character the Jubilee course took the mantle. For example, even the Old Course did not have dramatic dunes the way that the Jubilee course did, as seen on the second hole below:

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JK in front of the 8th hole at Jubilee

JK in front of the 8th hole at Jubilee

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The collection of finishing holes on Jubilee is also much stronger than many of the courses we played. Although the 16th was a bit odd–and I would have played it differently if I had known where we were going–it was undoubtedly difficult, and the 17th and 18th are strong finishing par 3 and 4, respectively.

Following our round, we embarked to the Jigger Inn for a post-round pint (or 4). That’s when St. Andrews left us with one last, incredible surprise:

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The Jigger Inn (which is right next to The Road Hole) actually has some great food, excellent drinks, and–like anywhere in Scotland–tremendous atmosphere. It was here that we finally tried haggis, which was underwhelming in that it was basically the same as ground beef with a slightly different taste to it. LG didn’t care for it, I didn’t find it to be bad. Probably would try more on a future trip.

Our final day of golf was just ahead, though, and we had a daunting last one. Get up early, play Kingsbarns; drive an hour or so to Carnoustie and play the course there; then, drive a couple hours back to Glasgow for our flight home. This was about when I was hit with the realization that this dream trip was coming to an end. Although I wished I could have done more, our packed final day left very little in the way of future accomplishments. One more in the books, and we got ready for the early out the next morning.

August 6, 2016
The town of Kingsbarns is about 15 minutes from the middle of St. Andrews, driving through some country roads, some city streets, and some odd intersections, we turned into an unassuming drive. In some ways, this was like being transitioned back into the US. A large driving range lay outside the left (passenger) window of the car; this might’ve been the first true driving range LG and I saw on the trip. As we drove up, we were greeted with this:

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When you see a view like that, you know it’s going to be amazing. Here’s slightly later, after breakfast, a view of the 18th green:

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I wish I could provide some type of a summary of exactly how incredible Kingsbarns was, but I find it virtually impossible. So I’ll let some pictures tell the story. Here’s the third hole:
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And the 12th:

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And the 15th:
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As I understand, this course is as much like Pebble Beach as anything in Scotland, with one notable exception: the staff isn’t directly and obviously trying to take your money at every possible opportunity. Sure–it’s a golf resort of sorts, and that breeds the “spend money here” type of mentality. However, it’s not obtuse like it is at Pebble.

What was interesting, however, is that–to a person–100% of the patrons were American. The two guys that LG and I got paired up with were Americans from Las Vegas. In the clubhouse, other than the staff, all we heard was American accents. I postulated to LG that, at £270 or so, it’s outside of the price range that the typical Scot will pay to play golf, and, thus, Americans at Kingsbarns are like the Asian tourists at Pebble Beach, overrunning the place with 100% touristy reactions. That doesn’t change that the course was beautiful and perhaps the best-kept course that we played during our trip. And while I personally didn’t care for some of the design elements, we probably could have avoided some confusion simply by taking a caddie, but we failed to book one. Regardless, you have to tip your hat to some very clever golf holes on that course.

HOT TIP: play Kingsbarns. Seriously.  And have the meat pie at the turn stand.  The whisky isn’t bad either!

The after a beating at Kingsbarns, LG and I got in the car and headed for Carnoustie. We saw some interesting things along the way.

when you see it, you'll know

when you see it, you’ll know

We made it to Carnoustie in time to visit the shop. The clubhouse at Carnoustie was the most modern of the ones we visited on our trip. It certainly wasn’t out of taste, but it did feel a bit stark as compared with, say, the traditional feel of the clubhouse at Kingsbarns.

I have to take a moment to thank LG for fitting this one in. It was my personal goal to visit Carnoustie. I’ve always considered it to be the purest of the links courses there. It has all the features of a true links golf experience but without the quirkiness of some of the holes at other Open rota locations.

The course did not disappoint.

First, it was the course that we experienced probably the greatest change in weather during our trip. Although LG and I were thankful at how great the weather was for most of our vacation, it was a bit of a letdown to visit Scotland without having a round where we truly battled the elements. Carnoustie turned out to be that round. At about the 6th hole, LG and I had to break out the rain gear (for me, it was the first time all trip) and the rain gloves, which made playing the par 5 with OB left just a BIT more challenging. Here’s a few looks at the course, including the third:

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The spectacle bunkers on 15 (which is a RIDICULOUSLY difficult hole)
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The clubhouse as seen from the 16th tee
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And a few reminders of why this place is legendary
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Interestingly enough, in that last photo, there is a bridge that did not exist when Van de Velde had his historic meltdown in 1999. Circling back to earlier in the trip, this was one of the bridges donated by John Imlay.

And, in a very fitting end of LG’s and my golf experience, the first time the sun peeked out at us since before we teed off was as we walked off the 18th (with par, I’m proud to say).

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It might be important to note here: caddie fees are pretty reasonable in Scotland, all things considered. I ended up taking caddies for only two rounds: St. Andrews Old Course and Carnoustie. LG took a caddie at North Berwick as well (I would have, but only one was avilable). However, the fees were similar at all locations (£50-£55 base rate + ~£10-£20 tip) and, compared to some US rounds I’ve had, very reasonable.

HOT TIP: caddies are not expensive in Scotland. Take one if you need a break or if you play a course where you really need help navigating

And that was it. Over two weeks later now, I still can’t believe I was there, and I almost can’t believe how quickly 11 rounds went by.

LG and I had our signature meal for the trip:

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We stayed at a Holiday Inn at GLA airport that was beyond convenient, even returning the rental car the night before our flights.

HOT TIP: If you’re flying out of GLA early in the morning, the Holiday Inn right next to the airport is extremely convenient

Although this doesn’t capture everything, it is mildly indicative of just what you can expect if you plan a trip similar to ours.

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At Glasgow, LG and I meandered around a bit to find breakfast, drop off our VAT refund forms (see above) and head out. And, of course, LG was intentionally selected for random selection for additional airport screening.
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After it all, I got on the plane and absolutely passed out. Some 15 hours later, I arrived in LAX, grabbed my bags, cleared customs, and was back at home shortly after. Even though I had timed it out, it took my two full days of going to bed at the same time as my kids (8:00-ish) just to get back near normal–I was EXHAUSTED coming home. Also, my feet and legs are still somewhat stiff from the beating they took. Most courses in Scotland don’t have carts (buggies, as they call them)–although, thankfully, pushcarts are abundant. I could not have made it through if I had to carry my own bag.

It’s hard to imagine that this trip could have been any better than it was. In the space of one week, I played 11 courses, four of them sites of multiple major championships, and the most impressive courses we played were arguably not even amongst the rota. That said, I know there is more that we simply didn’t have time for. For example, we played no highlands golf–Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch, Inverness, Cruden Bay, and Nairn are all renowned courses that we didn’t even consider or approach geographically. We missed Turnberry, which many people regard as “the Pebble Beach of Scotland,” and most of the West coast was a mystery, which could have included Prestwick and other courses in Troon and Glasgow. Even in the places we did go–such as East Lothian–we didn’t have time for The Glen, Renaissance, or even Archfield, much less the other courses at Gullane. It’s incredible to think how much we missed given how much we did.

Will there be another trip in the future? I certainly hope so. Although these are not the kinds of trips one can take all the time–and, clearly, it took me 20+ years to finally figure it out enough to make it–when it does happen, it opens your eyes to special kinds of places exist in this game. Many thanks to LG for accompanying me on this journey of a lifetime. On to the next one.

I want to start this post off by apologizing…first, for the wall of text, but also for the unreasonable delay in posting the wall of text. Hopefully the ramblings that follow this apology make sense, hit home, and lead into something.

A little over five years ago, LG and I were sitting around watching golf, predicting what the commentators would say (rather accurately, if I might so brag)–lo and behold, the PF was born. We came up with interesting ideas for content, subject areas to dedicate to our readers, unbiased reviews, etc. etc. We were ready to take on the world. Then some funny things happened. Like…life.

In the time since the blog started, LG went from being a happy student to an overworked overachiever twice, to a business owner in a field having nothing to do with his training. I became a father a few times over, moved across the country, and became addicted to finance the way I was once addicted to golf. What’s more–and without giving up too much–my job got in the way of my contributions to this blog. It simply wasn’t possible to do both tasks at the same time. So…we let it slip.

In the mean time, a few more things happened. LG grew into a new experience and relationship with the game that is, in some ways, far different from what we started doing, and, in other ways, a much deeper version of the same thing. In contrast, after 20 years of being an avid player, enthusiast, and equipment junkie, I grew jaded and cynical about the game. Things that were once fun and interesting to me grew to be a drag. It was as if I had seen behind the smoke and mirrors, to realize that what we know as golf was no more a magical experience than the Wizard of Oz. I still played, but the shine with which I once enjoyed the game grew apart from me.

This past weekend–prompted by a friend of the community–I traveled back to the east coast and played TPC Sawgrass. It was a long, painful flight. Although I had always dreamed of the moment I would step out onto that special layout, the course itself proved to be somewhat lackluster, and the greens were simply nothing special. I tweaked my back. I shot 14 shots above my handicap. And in that round and the few that followed, I lost over a dozen golf balls.

But I gained something in that trip. Meeting with two tremendous friends (one being LG), the spark lit for me yet again. The fire started. And it began to help me realize why we do this. Sure, playing for that record score is an exciting thing. Getting into competition is enjoyable. But that’s not why we do this. We do this to have something with which we can find common ground with our friends, relatives, and anyone else who feels the same way about the game that we do (or, in my case, did). We do this to have stories to pass on. We do this to get perspective on life through a game that exemplifies all of the faults of life. We do this to find those few truly special moments when we can say we did something different from the rest.

It matters little to me anymore that the veil of honor has been lifted from the world of golf, for me. I can enjoy this game for what I want it to be to me, despite the crooked politics, the dishonesty, and the douchery that pervades it. This game is personal. It’s mine alone to enjoy. Those things will not affect me unless I let them. Regardless of anything around me, I am going to continue to play and to love this game.

I’m hopeful that LG and I will have more time and energy to commit to sharing our lives in this game with all of you. Kids, jobs, life, and other commitments make it difficult. However, even if not, know that we’re still out there doing what we love. Because this game is it.

Today (Aug 31, 2013) marks my birthday and what I would call my 20th anniversary of “playing” the game of golf. It was 20 years ago today–on my ninth birthday–that my dad gave me my first “set” of clubs. It was a Northwestern Golf kids set which included a bulls-eye style putter, a driver and a 3-wood that I think had plastic as part of their crowns and probably were no bigger than a very small hybrid by today’s standards, as well as a 3-iron, 5-iron, 7-iron, and 9-iron (because a kid with a 45-mph swing speed needs a 3-iron, right?). Once I had gotten into my teens, my father actually sold that set–much to my chagrin, as now I have a small child and would love to have been able to pass along the memories to him.

As I embark on my next 20 years of golf, it amazes me how much things have changed in the game. When I started, golf was a hobby taken up by generally upper-middle class white men–and that was basically it. I was one of the lucky few who, although not upper-class, was guided by a few well-meaning individuals in my life to start this beautiful game. None of them could play worth a spit, but that didn’t matter–they enjoyed the time. My Dad had the good sense not to try to teach me a golf swing; instead, he brought home magazines from work that I would spend hours reading and trying out all the “tips” within. Back then, irons were either blades or PINGs (or “clones”). Woods were actually made of wood. If you used the word “hybrid” on the golf course someone would’ve thought you were from outer space. Everyone had an Odyssey Rossie with the black face insert, and we were just finding out about this guy named Scotty Cameron.

Twenty years later, everything is different. Clubs are commodities to be replaced and resold year after year. People actually get financially invested in golf clubs–particularly putters–to the tune of multiple thousands of dollars. Where before the “long” hitters could bang it out there 275 yards, nowadays you’re a short knocker if you’re under 300. Most of the people I play with have never even heard the word “balata,” and if I talk about a spoon they’ll think it’s utensil to go with breakfast. The diversity of the game has changed too. We’ve seen an influx of all types of people who want to learn this game, and, to some degree, an outflow of those who either thought it wasn’t worth the time or wasn’t worth the money for the interest level–both of which are good for the game.

Through it all, what hasn’t changed is the meaning of the game. Twenty years after I got “my first set,” I still look forward to what a day on the course means. It’s a reprieve from what else life has going on. It’s a chance to get to know someone and see how that person deals with both success and adversity–as you will without a doubt see both in any round of golf. It’s a chance to test your own competitive skills while finding out if you can maintain your composure under fire. It’s a chance to do something you’ve never done before.

I still look forward to my rounds with the same people I had twenty years ago. Four hours on the course with Dad is still four hours well spent, no matter how many balls he deposits into the abyss of trees and water hazards. Four hours listening to Uncle Jimmy talk about what’s going on in each of his grandchildren’s lives is still a priceless experience. Even playing a scramble here and then, I still think back to the 2-day scramble tournament my father and I would drive 9-hours to get to–and the year I was FINALLY allowed to play in it and, as the B-player, became the team’s anchor (over the A-player) by the 5th hole.

For all the time, money, energy, effort, and soul I’ve given to the game, it’s given me so much more than I’ve put in. Not only has it given me two jobs–one perhaps my dream job–it has given me a sense of how the world operates, an ability to interact and connect with others, and a lifetime of memories. There was any of the 5 aces that I’ve hit (will be covered in a later topic on this series), the magic 4-iron, the 8-iron through the window in the sky, or the 385-yard drive. There was Pebble Beach, Glen Abbey, Wolf Creek (and again, again, and again until I FINALLY broke 80!), Torrey, and Lake Chabot. There was Meadow Lane and Indiana Country Club with Unk and Nay. The was Atlanta International, Southland, and how Korean Air destroyed them. There was a best friend who broke two hosels in the same round, and another best friend who dared a bit too much during a range session. There was a broken ankle, a broken collar bone, and a scratched thumb. There was even a full-on threat to “beat you into the ground” from a muscular Jamaican wielding a 3-iron over his head.

For all the places life has taken me, golf has been there. I’m thankful for the time it’s given me and the joy I’ve received. I can’t wait to show my kids what the game is about.

It was said by the great Ben Hogan that “there’s golf, and then there’s tournament golf.” Amateur and pro alike have experienced the phenomenon. You can play any course on earth and, given the day, shoot within a few shots of your handicap. Play it 10 times and you might have one bad round, maybe 7 or 8 shots over your handicap. You’ll also have a few good ones, maybe 2 shots better than your handicap.

But play it in a tournament, and the world ends. Stuff happens that NEVER happens on a golf course. You see problems on the course that you’ve never noticed before. Fairways that were once wide and inviting now feel narrow and impossible to strike. You try to play a fade and it turns into a slice. You hit a provisional, try to hit the same shot, and it hooks.

Basically, Ben Hogan was right.

I played this week in the USGA’s United States Mid-Amateur qualifying tournament. Although my handicap still reads 1.2, I’m probably not better than about a 4 handicap on any given day. Still, I wanted to play even though I didn’t think I’d have much chance of competing. +1 was the final qualifying score.

I shot……87.

As a 1.2 handicap, this is an abysmal score.

Not only that, I really wasn’t that upset with it!

The first part of it is that I hadn’t played golf in awhile. This was my first round in over a month, so the rust was definitely there. I hit 6 GIR on the day and made two birdies, which is not bad. But the poor swings came out in odd spots, and the chipping just was nonexistent.

But a few things about my round got me thinking, which is the source of this post. During my round at the Mid-Am, a player declared a ball lost, taking the penalty, only to find it again later on the day….twice. On the first, we looked for 5 minutes then found the ball while walking to the provisional; the second time, the ball was STUCK IN A TREE and actually fell out of the tree when we came back around playing the adjacent hole. Neither of these happened to me.

It also got me thinking about my personal record in tournament golf, which is….not so good. In fact, it’s quite bad. But what is odd is the way that it’s bad.

You see, I’m a great starter, can be a good player in the middle, but am a lowsy finisher.

Over the course of the last 3 years (2011-2013), I have played in 17 amateur-level competitions. Taking the first hole from each tournament, I am -3 over 17 “first” holes–and that includes a triple-bogey. However, over each round, I’m an AVERAGE of +12.6, and a collective +214. Here are the tournaments (please bear with the formatting, as WordPress doesn’t handle it well).


Date------||Hole1||Score||Result|| Course || Tournament
05/09/2011 || -1 || +12 || DNQ || Dunwoody CC || US Open Qual
06/06/2011 || +3 || +05 || Qual || The Frog || Atlanta Open Qual
06/13/2011 || +1 || +21 || DNQ || Atlanta National || Georgia Am Qual
07/11/2011 || EE || +04 || DNQ || Cartersville CC || Georgia Open Qual
07/19/2011 || -1 || +10 || DNQ || Capital City Crabapple || US Am Qual
08/29/2011 || EE || +15 || DNQ || Brickyard at Riverside || US Mid Am Qual
10/06/2011 || EE || +13 || DNQ || Rivermont || Atlanta Am
04/09/2012 || EE || +29 || DNQ || Berkeley Hills CC || Georgia Mid Am Qual
06/11/2012 || EE || +08 || DNQ || Mystery Valley || US Am Pub Links Qual
06/11/2012 || EE || +07 || DNQ || Mystery Valley || US Am Pub Links Qual
07/24/2012 || -1 || +11 || DNQ || Piedmont Driving Club || US Am qual
08/06/2012 || EE || +08 || DNQ || St. Ives CC || US Mid Am Qual
10/04/2012 || EE || +18 || DNQ || Rivermont || Atlanta Am
04/08/2013 || EE || +08 || Qual || Berkeley Hills CC || Georgia Mid Am Qual
05/13/2013 || -2 || +17 || DNQ || Marietta Coutnry Club || US Open Qual
05/17/2013 || -1 || +13 || Championship || Savannah Golf Club || Georgia Mid Am
08/21/2013 || -1 || +15 || DNQ || La Costa Resort || US Mid Am Qual

ARE YOU SEEING THIS PF FANS? Amazingly, what was perhaps my best round (+5) started with a 4-PUTT triple bogey, but led to 5 birdies and a qualification for a local PGA event.

What is it about tournament golf? Take the first hole and put it together. Over 17 holes I’ve managed to shoot a good enough score to put myself in contention in basically any tournament at -3. But it breaks down.

I think part of this is the riddle of golf that we all need to understand and figure out. The challenge of competitive golf is that it gives a player a new facet to a game with so many great angles as it is. For those who have mastered or nearly mastered the game, tournament play is a new challenge to excite.

As you can see, I’m still learning how to be truly competitive, but I am loving the challenge. If anyone out there wants to help me understand it, please, go ahead in the comments below.

Golf is an odd game. It seems that, as soon as you have it figured out, it eludes your grasp. We’ve all been there. You tell yourself to do something a certain way that’s different than what you did before, and it works. The light bulb goes on. Then, the remainder of your practice and rounds are spent working on that one thing–to a fault. Eventually, you’ve so overemphasized that one little swing thought that you have to try to undo it and go back to what you were probably correctly doing before. While we all might benefit from a lesson with a pro who is familiar with our games at a point like that, nonetheless, expense or time seem always to get the best of us.

Still, the ride is fun while it lasts.

About a year and a half ago, I posted of such a time in POTW 23. The ballstriking was on, and, but for a few really bad greens, I probably would have been posting some amazing numbers.

But truly good golf is something different. It’s not just a streak. Truly good golf is finding ways to play your best when you don’t have the whole package. And, lately, that’s what it feels like for me. I can’t say what’s different. I know that I’ve changed my mental approach to where now I no longer need a perfect drive to set up an approach to the green, and, often, from bad lies I’m willing to miss the green in the right spot to get up and down for par. Maybe after 20 years of playing, I’ve finally figured out what to do.

Truth is, I think it’s a complex mix of mechanics, equipment changes, and mental attitude. Altogether, it’s working. Three weeks ago, I shot a -2 69 (34-35) on a local muni. I played it again a few days later and shot a very poor 76 (36-40) that was very much hindered by slow play of juniors and seniors around the course. I played 9 holes with a friend and shot 34 (E par) on another muni and then played the same course a few days later, shooting 37-37 (+4). Then, this morning, I played the first muni again and shot -1 70 (34-36).

All of this has been done in very different ways. Some days, it’s lots of GIR. Some days, it’s scrambling. Today, it was 25 putts and nailing them down from everywhere. Even with lost balls, shots in the woods, you name it–I’m finding ways to stay around the E line.

Now, I take this with a grain of salt. All of this golf has been on a couple of pretty easy muni courses. But I’m encouraged by the play. Either way, I know it won’t last forever–and it doesn’t have to. Enjoying this ride while I’m on it is what the game is all about. There may be a bad streak some time (The Doldrums), so it’s important to enjoy the good times while they’re around.

Thank God that, for once, my good rounds are coinciding with non-aerated greens!

Here are the scores for nostalgia:

For golfers, I find, it’s a progression. You start the game and can barely get the ball airborne. You hit that first shot flush and straight and it’s like water to a thirsty man. You find yourself addicted, at some point, waiting for that next “my best score” round.

It starts with breaking 100, making your first par, your first birdie, maybe even your first eagle. Then breaking 90, 80, setting a new personal best, breaking par for 9 holes, having a streak of pars-or-better in a row, or going a certain number of a rounds without losing a ball. We remember these moments–well, some of them.

I barely recall breaking 100–I was at Sugar Creek Golf Course in Atlanta. I believe I shot 94. I think I also had my first birdie ever during that round. I don’t recall much else–I was probably younger than 13. I remember breaking 90, although only vaguely. It was the only time I’ve ever played the Alfred ‘Tup’ Holmes golf course in Atlanta. I had 15 bogeys, one double-bogey, and two pars to shoot 89. I broke 80 at a course that no longer exists called “Atlanta International.” Kind of a sad state of affairs the way that course went under–more on that at a later portion of the series. I was probably 16 or 17 when this happened.

My first “under par” round was at Bobby Jones Golf Course when I was in college at GA Tech. I went out on a muddy afternoon and walked with 3 young professionals who were all riding and drinking beer. I remember talking with one of the guys and saying “it’s been a pretty good round” at about the 14th or 15th hole. He said “have you made any birdies?” I responded “I’m three under right now.” Clearly, it was not being noticed. I shot -1 that day (2 bogeys coming down the stretch).

My two best rounds to date, however, both came about in 2010. Oddly enough, they both happened while I was searching for a new set of irons, and with both of them I got rid of the irons shortly thereafter.

Perhaps what I’d call my best round of golf ever occurred in April 2010. I decided to play with my wife’s uncle at Mystery Valley. In this round, I used a set of Mizuno MP-67 irons that I had just bought a few weeks earlier. Perhaps my best position relative to par was when I walked off of the 10th green, at -4. I don’t believe I’ve ever been further under par than that. I almost sunk the eagle putt too, from 35 or so feet, double-breaking almost 10 feet at the end. I had 5 birdies, and I still maintain I got screwed on the 17th hole, when my GPS told me I had 160 yards out and I ended up flying the green, the bunker behind the green, and going about 15 yards into the woods with an 8-iron.

Funny–I remember thinking the round started out badly, and thinking it might be a rough day when I had to save par on the 1st and 2d holes and was wide right on the third. When I chipped in on the third hole, though, my mindset changed–now, I thought, this might be a good day after all. 33 on the front side and an even par 36 on the back side had me breaking 70 for the first time in my life. Pretty awesome, all things considered.
MV rd

The only round that could rival my Mystery Valley performance was my performance later in the year at Lanier Golf Club. This round is STILL the only round for which I have not made a single bogey during the entire round. Only three birdies–and I was working with a -2 round for most of the day. The greens were terrible, and even though I hit a lot of quality golf shots, I did not do a lot of scoring. Still, I managed to work my way around the tightly tree-lined fairways and finish with an under-par round of -3, 69. This was with a set of MP-32s that–I convinced myself later–I hit “too far” and ended up selling to LG, who then sold to another person. They were, in fact, pretty tremendous irons.
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What’s interesting about both of the rounds: great ballstriking was a premium. Although we often think of great putting and chipping as the key to the game, in this case, ballstriking was necessary. Hitting 12 and 14 greens per round, respectively, certainly gave a HUGE advantage.

Regardless, you remember these moments for what they were. These moments on the course were ones I can tell my kids some day, ones I can brag about when I need a story, ones I can say “when I shot 69 here, the pin was there.” Not everyone has the opportunity to say that with respect to breaking 70, but everyone has that moment in their golfing careers. For me, it took 18 years to shoot an 18-hole round without a bogey–and in the two years since, I still haven’t done it again. But the game is a series of milestones, some easier to remember than others, some bigger deals than others, but each one another piece of the legacy of your time on the course. And those achievements are what we chase every time we play this great game. So go out there and find your next one. It might be closer than you think.

Many golfers have stories of the odd things they’ve seen. From drives that bounced off carts and back into the fairway to balls that skipped over lakes, the “rub of the green” just happens sometimes.

People often ask me what the craziest thing I’ve seen in golf is. I’ve seen a total of eight holes-in-one, five of them my own. There will be time to talk about those later. Two of the three others were hit at Mystery Valley Golf Course, my original stomping grounds for the game of golf. The first one I saw was by a 75-year-old man who hit a 9-wood 145 directly at the pin on the 16th. When I said “that might’ve gone in” he shrugged it off. In fact, it had gone in. The second was clear as day, and we all watched the ball roll into the hole on the 2nd green.

Aside from aces, I’ve seen a lot of weird and crazy stuff. I was once threatened by an angry Jamaican wielding a golf club. I flipped a golf cart going about 40mph and somehow lived through it. I worked at a course with a fellow who grew marijuana at the back of the range. I even played golf with one of my best friends who had, not one, but two golf club heads snap off at the hosel during a round. I’ve had people dive out of the way of golf balls 100 feet over their heads. (all of these will be covered at some point)

But perhaps the craziest of crazy golf was the third ace I witnessed. I tell the story often because, frankly, if it weren’t real, it wouldn’t be believable.

During college I worked for a company outside of Boston, Massachusetts. It was a recurring internship wherein I went to school one semester, went to work the next, went to school the next, and went to work the following until graduation. My second semester at work was in the Fall of 2004. Although I wasn’t a tremendous golfer–maybe a single-digit handicap at the time–I still loved the game.

The local municipal golf course was Juniper Hill Golf Course. This is still one of my favorite municipal tracks, as it was always maintained at least playably well and was a fun layout of 36 holes. Neither of the courses were particularly long, but the land features were unique and challenging, as well as quite beautiful for the Massachusetts countryside-ish.

One afternoon, I decided to play the Lakeside course. This was probably my more preferred of the two courses. It is still one of the only courses I’ve played with a par 3 starting hole.

JH scorecard

This particular afternoon, I was paired up with Ed and Dave. Why I still remember these folks’ names, I have no clue. Nonetheless, Ed and Dave both were very friendly. They clearly knew each other. I learned during the round that they had done business together for years but this was the first time they had met in person.

Ed and Dave were both experienced golfers, but I was playing a little more seriously than them, stepping off yardages and paying attention to wind directions. Ed and Dave started asking for my help on some of their shots, which I gladly obliged. Why not tell them the yardage if I had already determined it?

The 14th hole at Juniper Hill’s Lakeside course is on the edge of the property, just before the lake. It plays entirely over a marsh, as seen in the view below:

It’s NOT the hole on the top where you see the sand trap in front of the green. It’s actually on the bottom, where the green is just in front of the trees and is partially shaded. You can see the cart path on the edge of the marsh leading from the tee box (about 180 yards) to the green. This cart path is the last part of the property before the lake.

This hole is the #1 handicap on the course because of the long carry over water. It’s 206 from the blue tees and 180-ish from the whites. On this day, the tees were playing up at the whites. I stepped off the yardage to roughly 175 yards.

Dave asked me “how far is it?” I replied “it’s about 175-180. I would put a 5-iron in your hand.” Dave grabbed his 5-iron, teed it up, and hit it a good inch thick. The ball waddled in the air, clearly without enough distance to get to the green. It sailed down into the marsh.

As I was about to move my gaze, I saw the ball bounce up out of the marsh. I told Dave to “hold on.” It landed on the green. It rolled toward the flag. “That might be in the hole!!” I said to Dave. He shrugged me off–“no way,” he said. “I don’t know. That looked close, and I don’t see the ball,” I replied.” “It probably just rolled over the back” I said. I walked up to the green as Ed dropped and hit his second ball (he had already hit in the marsh). I looked around behind the green. No ball. I looked in front of the green. No ball. I wanted to respect Dave that, if he did hit an ace, he be the first person to see it. When he got to the green, he started looking around for the ball as well.

“Why don’t you look in the hole?” I asked. Dave did, and, shocked, found his golf ball. Cheers went up. He was ecstatic. I was the only person with a camera phone (this was 2004), and I took a photo on it of Dave pulling his golf ball out of the hole. A GREAT memory.

“What happened?” I thought. I walked down to the marsh, and roughly 5-10 yards short of the green in the marsh was a piece of granite laying flat. It was no bigger and no more curved than a dinner plate. Other than that, nothing could have deflected Dave’s ball. I called him over and pointed it out. Dave, Ed, and I all laughed, as we all knew his ball was about 10 yards short of the green from the tee box.

In other words, Dave hit a hole in one by chunking a shot off the tee, landing it on a dinner plate roughly 165 yards away, and having it bounce up and into the hole.

And THAT, my friends, is what’s crazy about golf.